Monday, February 4, 2013

Toddler Discipline

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I need some parenting help y'all!  How do you discipline a toddler?

Sam is so much fun and I love his little spirited personality more and more every day; but, recently, I've started worrying that I'm not doing enough to discipline him and teach him good behavior and habits.  To be perfectly honest, I find myself caving to what is easiest (like just picking him up when he is crying, giving him what he wants, or adjusting my own plans to keep him happy) rather than doing what I truly believe is better for him - which is teaching him boundaries and respect.  I feel really strongly that one of the most loving things I can do for Sam is to teach him to be a kind and respectful little man.  That includes teaching him - in love - that there are consequences for his behaviors.
I mean, how can I resist that face?!?
For a long time, I felt like we weren't really there yet... There is a lot of information available about discipline at all different ages and stages, but I felt confident that I shouldn't worry about "spoiling" Sam too early on and that the time for "tough love" would come.  Well... I think it has come; and, to be honest, I don't even know where to begin...

First, being consistent is hard for me, and I know that is really really important.

But, I also really don't know how to discipline a little one who can't even talk - much less rationally discuss good vs. bad behavior and consequences.  He has a VERY high threshold for screaming (as in, he doesn't give up at all easily), he won't sit in "time out", and I don't want to make him aversive to his bedroom/crib/etc.  What's a momma to do?

I know many of you have been here before... I would REALLY appreciate any advice/tips regarding discipline for toddlers you might have to share.  (And, I have a hunch some other momma's wouldn't mind a little help either.)

How do you handle discipline with a toddler at home?  What about in public?  What have you learned in your experience?

I'm anxious to read what you have to say, and (hopefully) come up with something that fits our little family and our little guy uniquely.  Thank you in advance!

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  1. Ohhh, please, please post some of the suggestions. We're right there with you, and have only just gotten to the timeout stage, which at this point is more of a punishment for me than for him.

  2. I'm right there with you! At home, I've been letting my daughter (20 months old) have her tantrum and fall to the floor but in public I pick her up and she usually kicks and screams "NO". I hate it. Would love to hear suggestions.

  3. I guess I am spoiled because my oldest, Malcolm (now three,) was always pretty rule-abiding. He would give us the big bottom lip and start to cry at the mere utterance of "no," so it sounds like he was much less "spirited" than Sam, and probably more willing to just go along with us. ;)

    Like you said, consistency is really key. Whatever is off limits needs to remain that way all the time (not just when you feel like it!)! So, pick your battles (at this stage) and discipline for what is most important.

    For us, our major form of discipline was a time out/"naughty spot" where Malcolm would be removed from us/the situation for a short time. We did it the way "Super Nanny" always did it on her show: Put him in the spot and tell him why he's there, leave him alone, reiterate why he was there and have him apologize once the time was up. Then, get a hug and kiss (which is my favorite part!!) and go back to playing. Like I said, this kid didn't like to hear "no," so it was (and still is) effective with him. Our second will be one in a couple months, so we'll be using the same thing with her when she pushes her boundaries. So far, she doesn't like hearing "no" either (we get the lip and lots of tears), but she's got way more spunk than her brother did at the same age ... I guess I'll see how it works!

    Also, you may remember from previous comments on here, Malcolm didn't say his first word until he was a year and a half ... But I don't think not being able to speak is an issue with discipline. As long as Sam understands simple directions, he will get it. You obviously aren't going to go into a lengthy discussion about why he can't do something ... Just that what he did is wrong/not safe/whatever.

    So, there you have it. My two cents. ;)

  4. Cant wait to read more comments. I'm certainly not at the point where discipline is an issue-- but eventually it will be!

  5. We do the times outs wit my daughter and started around 14 mo ish. With time, she started to get that this time out chair was not a fun thing. When she got out before her time was up, we just kept putting her back without saying anything. She then learned to stay put. When at play dates, we will find a hall way and place her on the floor. Commands are simple in giving warning before. It takes practice and time, but they will get the idea.

  6. we do time outs even now for our 14 month old (we have an almost 4 year old and we didn't start as early with him but our pediatrician said definitely time outs can start at a year old) i put her in her highchair, strap her in and turn it to face the corner of the room so she can't see us. She hates it and she seems to totally understand what is going on. With our son who is older we do "1,2,3 Magic" which apparently has some controversy in Christian circles but I am fine with it (as opposed to the book "Don't Make me Count to three" which is written by a Christian and i disagree with it on many levels). It has been a life saver and through it, as he has gotten older, he has learned to obey much more quickly (and often right away). He does get spanked, but I personally wouldn't spank a kid under two, and we probably didn't spank him till he was almost three or at least three. We save it for the "major" disobedience type stuff (which is probably arbitrary but it works for us). there's also a good book- making your child mind without losing yours. i like that one too. i think you use different "tools" in different situations. my pastor says you need lots of different tools in your toolbox and you pull out which one is appropriate at the right time. just my 2 cents!

  7. i feel the same way. discipline is SO HARD! (my son is 17 months)
    and before i had a child i thought discipline would be a slam dunk. i was awesome at hypothetically disciplining other people's children....
    we started spanking and our son started hitting us. we ignore things, we see no improvement. we're consistent, he's consistent with disobedience. we tell him no, suddenly he's telling us no. awesome. it's just hard. and i think this is a hard age. it's hard for me to know if he understands consequences, etc.
    my doctor said the #1 thing isn't what technique you use, it's that you remain calm and in control. that was helpful (it released me from thinking there was a right or wrong -- like that we should or shouldn't be doing timeout or spanking or whatever).
    i also really believe that what works for one child doesn't work for another...which helps me when i'm tempted to compare my child to another child (whether it's a well-behaved child or head strong) and judge other parents.

  8. Are you familiar with the book "Parenting with Love & Logic?" It has lots of very practical ideas for keeping yourself calm and helping your child get the idea that actions have consequences. There is a distinct difference in our house when we're consistently using the love & logic techniques (vs. when we get lazy about using them). And I also think "Give Them Grace" and "Shepherding a Child's Heart" are great reads for Christian parents. They're not practical-advice kinds of books, but they are SO helpful in developing an overall framework for discipline in your home. I think they are especially helpful if you have experience disciplining other people's kids (like, as a teacher). For me, it was easy to think that my goal as a parent was the same as when I was teaching: get the behavior I want. These two books really helped me to think about discipline issues as opportunities to plant seeds of the gospel in my boys' hearts.

  9. I'll be coming back throughout the week to read the comments here, because we could ALL use help in this area!

    In my opinion, I don't think time out is appropriate at this age. Until you can communicate with your child where both parties understand, I don't think the time out process is effective. Luke isn't communicating AT ALL, so traditional "time out" is out of the picture for us right now.

    If Luke is having a little "melty" in Target because he can't get out and walk around, I do my best to figure out WHY he's having this tantrum. For our little guy, and I imagine many at this age, there's a source of the problem; it's not just a child trying to be ornery. If he's bored, I try to give him a bag of Cheerios or something to keep him occupied. If he wants to get out of the cart, I try to let him "help" me shop for a few minutes. Yes, there are times when he will throw a fit when I go to put him back into the stroller/cart, but I hold him and talk to him throughout his tantrum until he has calmed down. (trying my best not to lose my cool myself!) THEN I put him back. I make sure to keep control of Luke during his meltdowns & not let the stroller or cart contain him while he's kicking and screaming. He needs to know that I'm in control, at all times.

    Luke has recently started to hit when we tell him a firm "no." When he does that, I firmly grab the hand/arm that he used to hit and tell him, "We do NOT hit Mama/Daddy/Nana/whomever." I then make sure to hold him for a few minutes until he has calmed down. My classroom motto was "firm but kind;" I'm trying my best to carry that out in my child-rearing as well! Good luck!

  10. 1, 2, 3 Magic!! Get the book. Enough said!!

  11. I'm struggling with my 2 year olds too. Time outs seem to have no effect even if they can tell me that they only should throw balls. They do great at apologizing after hitting each other but then are right back at it. The best advice I've heard is from my mom, of course, and it was distract. I try to distract and redirect as much as I can and if I can find something interesting enough the behavior stops pretty quickly. I also started doing time outs in their high chairs today so I don't have to "babysit" the one in time out and I can spoil the one who isn't in trouble.

  12. I very much agree that there's not a one size fits all when it comes to discipline, especially for toddlers. Time outs aren't our thing but for some they are life savers.

    I really think though that across the board, for any child, positive discipline works way better than negative. We notice Jonathan doing something right or learning a new thing or behaving well with others and we tell him how proud we are of him. Then, when he is misbehaving, usually all it takes is a look or a stern no and j notices the difference in our attitude so easily that he quickly wants to change his behavior. It's only a minute or two usually that I can tell he gets that he did something wrong, and then I just tell him that I love him and we hug and he's off playing again.

    Little things like pointing out the things they ARE allowed to do instead of just what is off limits helps; and before we go somewhere new, we talk about who will be there, and what we will do, so we have a positive frame of mind before hand. It hasn't happened yet, but I think if he had a total meltdown out in public that I couldn't talk him down from, we would leave the situation. I agree with Ashley, I really always try to see it from his perspective and try to make discipline decisions from there. If he's whine at target because he wants to get down, too bad, that's not how we behave in a store. But if he's whining because it's snack time, I get him a snack, ya know?

    One last thing, I agree with those who said to choose your battles. If you set yourself and your kid up for disappointment with unrealistic expectations, obviously you will both get frustrated and disappointed. Toddlers are TODDLERS and can't behave the same way as a five year old. Pick a few things that are high on your priority list and that you think are achievable (like not throwing food, not hitting, please/thank you even in signs) and enforce those. And make sure to focus on the positive :)

    Ok can you give me a pat on the back because I just typed this all on my IPHONE and now my finger is cramping! Hopefully autocorrect didn't do anything embarrassing in this comment... Ha! Love you! Thanks for starting this convo!

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Sorry, I deleted that last comment because it was a duplicate of my first one!

    Oh ps--Sam CAN understand you even if he can't talk back. Don't let that dancing fool make you think otherwise ;)

  15. Ok ONE more thing... I don't want my emphasis on positive discipline to be mistakenly placed in the camp on never-say-no-to-your-kid. That is bogus mumbo jumbo. It is so important to say no when appropriate and to set boundaries and kids will not be scarred by being told no. Just want to throw that out there.

    Who would have thought id have so much to say about this ?!

  16. i read ashley's comment, and we have the same problem with hitting. i do the same thing, but now i jsut say "we do not hit" rather than adding the qualifier (we do not hit mommy/daddy/etc.) because i see him using the behavior in MORE and MORE situations -- he hit another little boy the other day.
    it's really hard to figure out what he does and doesn't understand, i agree with you. and i DO think he understands more than i give him credit for, i know he can't understand me when he's screaming and hitting his head on the floor because i won't let him have whatever...
    i always tell him he's allowed to be sad, but he's not allowed to [fill in the blank]. my dr. reminded me that at their level of development, they don't really know HOW to express or deal with emotions, and tantrums are (for some kids) their only outlet.

    and for timeout, i know it works for TONS of kids, but for some reason i want to wait on it...
    my pastor told me that the biggest way we can model Christ to our kids is to be WITH them, because that's what He did for us -- he came to earth and lived WITH us.
    in that spirit, one thing they did was take a beloved item and put it in timeout rather than removing the child from the family. we haven't tried this yet (it also seems like it'd be easier to do when they're older), but i thought it was interesting.

  17. and dont make idle threats to kids..mean whatever u say u will do to punish.


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